Inspried by Women

Before last week, I didn’t know National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD, for short obviously) was a thing. I missed sharing the appropriate photo(s) to social media (I’ve been in a social funk recently), but I took most of the week to reflect on what I would have posted if I had felt like posting. Immediately, my mind went to my mother – the woman who fostered my start in running.

From a young age, I can remember following my mother to our basement and watching as she dutifully followed along with exercise tapes or ran miles on the treadmill. When I was in college, my mother raced her first half-marathon. She was the motivation I needed to sign up for my first half-marathon. She is also the origin of my competitive nature – if she can do it, I can do it!

After a day of thinking on it, my running story included dozens of other women.

Running has followed me through life’s ups and downs, and there have always been running-friends, too. Over the years, I have shared training runs, races porta-potty lines, and blister remedies with Katie, Jacklyn, Michelle, Christine, Sarah, and no less than a dozen other capable women. I’ve always felt that the physical act of moving forward (walking or running) helps your brain work through a problem. And these ladies have earned a semesters worth of clinical hours for the amount of time we’ve spent running and dissecting each other’s psyche.

In college, Katie was always faster than I was, yet I agreed to run with her knowing it would push me to be better. And when I convinced Jacklyn to run a marathon with me, she thought I was her motivator when all the while she was keeping me on track. And Michelle and Sarah likely have little knowledge as to how much they saw me through life’s lowest moment – they always answered my “want to go for a run today?” text with a “yes.” Christine inspired me to try something new – trail running – and helped me experience running in a way that made it fun again.

More recently, I’ve met women who inspire me to not give up on my goals even though I’m soon leaving my 20s behind – women in their 30s and 40s who are in their prime of running. Brenda and Sarah come to mind immediately – competent professionals, elegant women, and fierce runners. They have inspired me to recalibrate my perception of age and goals.

Then I thought even bigger – Shalane Flanagan.

She was the reason I wanted to run a marathon in the first place! I watched her race at the 2012 Boston Marathon and fell in love. She made it look beautiful and hard at the same time. She, and later Kara Goucher, became role models; the headlines I followed and names I cheered for at televised races. I researched how they trained, what they ate, and how much they rested. Their success provided a roadmap for me to follow before I knew how to navigate on my own.

It would be untrue to say women exclusively shaped my story.

Men have played their parts, and even some leading roles, in my running story. Long trail runs and races forged friendships with the likes of TJ, Jason, Austin, and Mark – providing a male perspective on running, training, and balancing life. When I took the plunge to join a new running group, I received a warm welcome from Doug, Walter, Peter, and Jeff. These men each influence both my relationship with running and my physical pursuit of the sport. But it’s not men who I identify with as role models – it’s women.

I identify with those who look like me and talk like me. Those who have faced the same challenges I have and who have surmounted them with hard work, perseverance, and grace. I’m lucky enough to always find women like that in ample supply in my life.

I can do hard things

The entire first turn was ice. Runners gingerly stepped across while warming up, not willing to risk a fall or injury. Part of me hoped everyone would opt for a tempo run instead of a track workout; in my head, that would have been easier to accomplish. My daydreams of an “easy workout” were interrupted by a more motivated person’s logic.

“How about 17 by 300 meters?” suggested Mark. “We could start at the 300 line and finish at the start line, then just jog easy in the grass back to the other side.”

He had a few takers, those who were not looking for an easy way out. I already felt guilty; they showed up for a track workout and were committed to the idea. After mulling over the notion for a few minutes, and some peer pressure, I agreed the workout Mark suggested sounded appropriate for the conditions and my training needs. I mean, it was only 300 meters.

Yeah, but 17 times.

Have you ever started a project with a heart full of ambition, only to make it halfway through and realize you are in over your head? There’s a part of you, at the mid-way point, that wishes you hadn’t started the project. You’re too deep into the project to stop, but too far away from the endorphin rush of completion. You want to cry, toss up your hands, and admit that you can’t do this hard thing.

I’ve been there a dozen times, at least. In my life, these hard projects look like workouts and races. Without question, the hardest part of running is taming my mind. And what better way to train both body and mind than with 17 by 300 meters in 25 degrees?

Hey, that’s a great idea. Let’s do that.

I rolled my eyes after the third or fourth 300 when Mark asked how our group was doing. “Great,” I replied. “This was a great idea, thanks for suggesting it,” I said dryly, adding a smile and a chuckle to let him know I was joking. The truth was I was struggling, and we had fourteen (FOURTEEN!) more 300’s to run.


Every negative thought you can imagine entered my head as we toed the line for our next sprint: you’re not going to finish this workout; if you want to finish, you’ll have to slow down; you’re going to be the last one to finish; you aren’t as good as you think you are; everyone here is better than you; you might as well give up on your training goals if you can’t even finish this workout.

We hurt the ones we love the most, right?

I started to tell myself I didn’t have to finish the workout. I could do ten instead of 17 repeats. Or maybe I would sit one out, catch my breath, then continue. I’m still building back to speed work, right? I gave myself excuses – the way you would if you were talking to a friend with tender feelings. It was an attempt to comfort myself if I did fail – which I thought was inevitable.

“Only eight more!” a different Mark shouted out to our group.

Oh. Only eight more, maybe won’t sit one out. Maybe I’ll do 15 instead of 17. Then I only have six more. That’s manageable.

Five more.

I can do five more. I’m keeping up my splits better than I expected I would, maybe I’m in better shape than I think. I just need to do this a few more times.

Two more.

I can’t believe I was going to stop at 15. I can definitely crank out these last two.

And I did. I finished the workout. What’s more, I was able to keep my pace consistent through the second half. I didn’t have to slow down to get through the workout. All of those scary things I told myself when my legs burned – they were lies.

I can do hard things.

It’s something I forget often. Hell, I forget it so much that I tattooed it on my wrist – so she did. Discretely tucked under my GPS watch, it’s a reminder that I’m stronger than I realize. It’s true in races, track workouts, and everywhere else in life. Of course, that’s not always easy to see when you’re in the middle of a workout, up to your hips in lactic acid. But, step-by-step, sometimes 300 meters at a time, you realize you can do hard things. Hopefully, next time it will occur to me sooner.

I am, but I am not

At a staff retreat this week, my boss facilitated an activity to help make us aware of our own biases and stereotypes. On one side of a sheet of paper, we were to list “I am” descriptions – I am a woman, I am a millennial – and on the other side of the page, we would write how we don’t fulfill the stereotype of that description – but I am not emotional, but I am not ruining the world.

I wrote: I am a runner, but I am not holistically healthy.

In fact, that was the only item I could come up with about myself at first. It’s one I find myself confronted with sometimes. There’s an assumption that if you run as much as I do, that you also drink power smoothies for breakfast, eat kale chips and hummus for lunch, and love a salad for dinner. If you run marathons, you must be incredibly healthy, right? Nah.

Running is an addiction.

My relationship with the sport didn’t start that way, but it’s evolved. I run because it wakes me up in the morning or clears my head at night. Running makes me feel good about my body – I’m a big fan of my hamstrings and quads. Most visibly, though, it gives me excuses to eat and drink ALL the things. Sure, I enjoy the health benefits, and I like knowing I can outrun zombies if the occasion presents itself. But mostly, running is a compulsion.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

When I read my statement loud, it needed no explanation for my workers. They’ve seen me raid the office kitchen for mid-morning snacks (peanut butter pie is a brunch food, right?) and midafternoon chocolate. I’m guilty of supplying office donuts on more than one occasion – some for them, some for me. The easiest habit for people to see – second to my enthusiasm for running – is my enthusiasm for good food. It’s harder to see the other unhealthy habits running has fostered in my life.

Sure, I run. But I don’t always take care of my body in other ways.

When you’ve run for so long, you forget what it’s like not to run. Most of my friends are runners; a lot of what I read is about running; my social media feeds are boiling over with running content. Eat, sleep, breathe, run, repeat. Simply running, though, without taking care of your body and mind, isn’t a complete health regimen. I imagine it’s like an unchecked addiction (I’ve never tried other drugs). I have been doing it for a while and feel fine, great even. In the back of my head, though, I know there is a time limit to this kind of running. My body is going to break down, and my head will eventually catch up with my legs.

For the last four years, I’ve been running towards something or away from something. Running lets me escape feeling things I don’t want to feel. It replaces those feelings with accomplishments, adventure, and mission-mind. I can’t say how long you can outrun yourself – I’m still out here, head in the sand, hoping I can dodge clarity a little longer. Running is still my addiction, my sanctuary from self. Someday, maybe soon, I’ll come around and find out the second step to recovery. Until I’m ready for that, I’m going to continue to run all the miles and eat all the office candy bars.

The shortest mile is the shared mile

Running with friends is the best way to start or improve your running.

New year, new you. Here’s how.

Friends hold us accountable (and not just with our dating lives).

Whether we said we want to start a new workout routine – run before work every morning – or we are training for a race and tell ourselves we will do our tempo runs this time, asking a friend to join you will make it harder to bag that run.
If I’m not motivated to run, I’ll often enlist a friend or latch on to a group. It reminds me of why I like running – it’s fun when you’re not looking at your watch the whole time or worried about your Strava stats. We’ll stop for photos, double over laughing, and point out oddities along the road or trail.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Nothing makes a long run sail by like a good conversation with a running friend. Think that workout sounds daunting? Call a pal – it’ll be done in no time, and it won’t feel as hard as you thought. The fastest (non-racing) 10 miles I ever ran was with a group of strong runners I know. Part of that was self-preservation – I didn’t want to look weak in the presence of others so I pushed harder to keep pace – but mostly, it was the comradery of the group pulling me along when the going got tough.
Beginners and veterans alike benefit from sharing their run with friends. I used to hate speed workouts until I joined a local track club. Now, I look forward to the weekly workouts that I share with my comrades. We suffer together, we triumph together, and we learn together – they know a heck of a lot about running.

Two brains are better than one.

Running with friends creates conversations. Yes, we spend a lot of time talking about running, but we also talk about life, work, etc. If you choose your friends right, they can help you work through any dilemma in your life, and that’s a win-win. I find that solutions come easier to me when I’m working out than they do when I’m staring right at them. I’m always in a good mood after a run with a friend, even if the run didn’t go as planned.
If you’re new to running, or your routine is feeling stale – find a friend. Don’t stress about being the same pace – just set a goal to have fun, take photos, and enjoy the experience. Road Runners Club of America and USATF are great places to find local running clubs. A Google search may also shine a light on running groups in your area. Everyone is the “new guy” at some point – so jump into a group and see how it feels.

On running well, but not too well

How do I define my hobby of running? I’m serious enough that my “casual runner” friends don’t like to run with me because I’m “too fast.” But I don’t have sponsors, a nutrition/strength/running coach, or spend half of my year in Colorado to train.

I’m serious-ish.

This is a large contingent of runners. To our non-running or casual running friends and coworkers, we may be their “crazy running friend,” boring them with tales of long runs, speed workouts, and races from afar. But within the running community, we are mediocracy. Maybe we can squeak out an age group placing at a local race, but we hang in the 30-50 percentile bracket in bigger races. We run well, but not too well.

Running has been a part of my life for seven years. It’s taken the main stage for the last four years, since training for my first marathon. After racing the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon, I knew I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon – a goal I earned in the fall of 2018 (though, tragically, a few seconds shy of actually earning a spot on the starting line this time). Setting this goal led me to serious-ish running.

This is a place for serious-ish runners. Front to mid-packers who train hard, and race hard, but don’t win. We’re out here, paying our own way and boring our friends with the details.

Here’s a bit about me…

I’m a millennial. Not the fringy kind – I was born in the heart of this demographic (1991) and am guilty of many millennial pit falls. However, don’t believe everything you read on the internet – we’re not ruining the world.

I live in my hometown – Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It’s a traditionally agricultural community with a growing urban epicenter – Lancaster City. Though I grew up in a suburban/rural community, I now reside within Lancaster City and love the lifestyle that comes with urban living.

I didn’t start running until college. Here’s the short version – my mom was right, I could ride a bike for 20 miles, and if she can run her first half-marathon at 40, I could run one too. (It should be noted that I derive my competitive nature from my mother, mentioned above.)

I am a dog LOVER. I’m not like a regular dog-mom. I’m a cool dog-mom. My doggo, Piper, is almost eight years old. She’s a 25 pound Plott Hound, Dachshund mix with 80 pounds of attitude. She loves hiking and trail running, but tolerates short romps around the city.